Meet the Team
P.V. Vara Prasad is a University Distinguished Professor, R.O. Kruse Professor of Agriculture and Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification at Kansas State University. He obtained his BS and MS degrees from Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University (India), and PhD from University of Reading (United Kingdom). His research focuses on understanding responses of crops to changing environments and developing best management strategies to improve and protect yields. He is passionate about research, education, and outreach activities; and building human and institutional capacity. He has active programs in several countries in Africa and Asia focused on improving livelihoods of people and providing food and nutritional security to smallholder farmers. He has published >260 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. His research has been cited >13,700 times with h-index of 62 and i-index of 170. He has trained >150 students and research scholars from 25 countries. He gave >100 invited talks in 40 countries. He received > $120 million (about $ 80 million as principal investigator) in grant funding and donations. He is an elected fellow of American Society of Agronomy; Crop Science Society of America; and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He currently serves on the International Commission on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification; and as the President of Crop Science Society of America.
B. Jan MiddendorfAssociate Director
B. Jan Middendorf serves as the Associate Director for Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) at Kansas State University (KSU). As Associate Director, Dr. Middendorf conducts research and leads SIIL’s impact assessment and monitoring and evaluation efforts. She is also responsible for establishing and maintaining effective partnerships with other U.S. and international institutions, industry, USAID Missions and developmental partners. As part of these efforts, she develops and implements strategic planning and capacity building initiatives to enhance collaborative research and support organizational change. This experience includes working with various stakeholders at the community, regional, national and international levels. Prior to this role, Dr. Middendorf managed a $15.5M diverse portfolio as Program Director of Project and Program Evaluation in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) for the National Science Foundation (NSF). She also served for ten years as director of an evaluation center at KSU. Dr. Middendorf has over 25 years of experience in project development, management, implementation and evaluation of multi-institutional, interdisciplinary programs and projects in national and international settings. Dr. Middendorf earned her Ph.D. from KSU after completing her Master’s and Bachelor’s from Ohio University and University of Rhode Island, respectively.
Manny ReyesResearch Professor
Manuel Reyes, research professor, has more than 30 years of experience working with water quality modeling, natural resources management and conservation agriculture. He is an agroecological engineer, designing food production systems that mimic nature. Reyes has extensive expertise across the globe in research, extension, teaching and project implementation. Reyes will focus his efforts in Cambodia working with the Royal University of Agriculture and University of Battambang to enhance human and institutional capacity to conduct research and training of scholars and youth. He will facilitate partnerships with other Feed the Future Innovation Labs, international organizations and private industry in Cambodia.
Jessica Burden serves as the Business Manager for the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. She is responsible for the financial management of all grants, including post-award accounting, travel planning, distribution of funding for sub-awards, and working with pre- and post-award services. Jessica holds a B.S. in Business Administration – Accounting with a minor in Leadership Studies, as well as a Masters in Accountancy, both from Kansas State University. Additionally, she has previous experience as an auditor, providing her with much grant compliance and financial experience and prior university experience at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and University of North Texas.
Layne Wilson serves as the International Communications Specialist for the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. She is responsible for developing and implementing communication strategies, success stories and social media content from project activities for effective outreach. Layne works with all of SIIL's projects and consortiums to provide regular updates and progress. Layne graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Communications and a minor in Agribusiness Management.
Andra McCowen serves as the Program Administrator for the SIIL. She collaborates with the Lab’s domestic and international partners to help manage the program’s monitoring and evaluation, communication, reporting, and knowledge management needs. Andra received a B.A. in French, with a minor in Community Nutrition, from the University of California, Davis, and a Master’s in International Development and Sustainability from the Université Grenoble-Alpes in France. She served as a Peace Corps health volunteer in Senegal from 2013-2014 and has worked in both Senegal and Guinea as a part of USAID projects. Andra was most recently employed with the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis prior to coming to the SIIL. She speaks fluent French and passable Seereer.
West Africa Regional Coordinator
Aliou Faye has two decades of research experience with the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA), the French Institute of Research for Development and the International Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Development (CIRAD). Faye worked also for 5 years as Chief of Agency of a Saudi group dealing with non-timber forest products in the Tambacounda and Louga regions of Senegal. Faye holds a B.S. in Tropical Forestry, a M.S. in Agronomy, and a Ph.D. in Plant Biology from the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar with field experience at the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility (CIAT) in Nairobi Kenya. Faye has published at least 20 research articles in different scientific journals. Faye is currently the head of the Soil-Water and Plant Laboratory of the Centre National de la Recherche Agronomique (CNRA) of ISRA in Bambey, Senegal and serves as the Country Coordinator of the SIIL in Senegal.
Director of Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherche Agricoles (INERA)- Burkina Faso
Dr. Hamidou Traore has over 25 years of research experience in the field of agronomy. Dr. Traore holds a PhD in Weed Science from the University of Montpellier II, Sciences and Techniques of Languedoc, France, and a Diploma of Rural Development Engineering in Agronomy from University of Ouagadougou. Dr. Traore currently serves as Director of Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherche Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso. He previously held the position of Regional Director of the Eastern and Sahelian Environmental and Agricultural Research Regional Centers. Dr. Traore was also a Fulbright Scholar at the Agronomy Department of Purdue University, Indiana, USA.
Prakash Kumar Jha
Prakash Kumar Jha is a postdoctoral fellow at the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station and works in collaboration with the SIIL. He earned his B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from Banaras Hindu University, India, M.S. in Environmental Sciences from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, India, and his Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Sciences from Michigan State University, USA. His advisors are PV Vara Prasad and Ignacio A. Ciampitti. Prakash is currently engaged in the projects on Lonsinger Sustainability Research Farm, and the Geospatial and Farming Systems Research Consortium (GFC) at Kansas State University.
Araya Berhe serves as Research Associate in the Department of Agronomy and the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. He received his Ph.D. in Production Ecology and Resources Conservation from Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Currently, his research is focused on application of crop modeling, geospatial and agro-meteorological technique for sustainable water management, developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies, and optimizing resources use for sustainable agricultural production and food security. Adressing water shortage, climate change and climate variability, and nutrient management related challenges in agriculture at local, regional and global level are some of his main research interest.
LaTrese Taylor serves as Program Support for the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) at Kansas State University. LaTrese earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She holds an M.A. and an M.S. in Human Resource Management and Organizational Management from Webster University, St Louis, and The George Washington University, Washington, DC respectfully. LaTrese was in one of the last U.S. Peace Corps Master’s International (MI) cadres, combining service with a degreed program. As an MI, she served as a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in Senegal from 2016-2019 and is due to receive an M.A. in International Development with a focus in Food Security from American University, Washington DC in spring 2021. She brings experience in project/program management, monitoring/evaluation in agricultural projects, combining research and local farmer programming, and agricultural technical training/extension in farming communities. She speaks Wolof.
Hardeep Singh is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Agronomy and works in collaboration with the USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory, El Reno. He earned his B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from Punjab Agricultural University, India, M.S. in Horticultural Sciences and Ph.D. in Crop Sciences from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA. Currently, his research is focused on testing different crop rotations for cropping system diversification in Southern Great Plains, lowering down greenhouse gas emissions from cover crops and application of crop modelling for sustainable use of water and nitrogen developing sustainable agricultural systems under Rainfed Agriculture Innovation Network (RAIN) project.
Gurjeet Singh is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL). Before joining the SIIL, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2020-2021). He has an educational background in water resources, with a focus on hydrology and remote sensing. He earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar in 2020, his M.Tech. in Soil and Water Conservation Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 2011, and his B.Tech. in Agricultural Engineering from Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, India in 2009. He has been doing research in the field of hydrology and focusing on in-situ soil moisture measurements of hydro-meteorological variables, sensor network design for the in-situ measurements, validation of satellite-based soil moisture products, microwave remote sensing for high-resolution soil moisture estimation, and the use of high-resolution soil moisture estimates in various hydrological and agricultural applications. Currently, he is focusing on ingesting remotely sensed geophysical and biophysical variables in a Regional Hydrologic Extremes Assessment System (integration of hydrological and crop modeling) to improve the skills of nowcast and forecast of the hydrologic state variables, drought indices, plant health, and crop yield.
Sanders Barbee serves as the Communications Assistant for Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL). As the Communications Assistant, Sanders helps to expand and promote communication strategies, success stories and social media content from project activities for effective outreach. Sanders is currently a sophomore majoring in Agricultural Economics, with a pre-law focus. She is also a fellow with the K-State's Food and Agriculture Policy Fellowship. She is an active leader in the student community in Manhattan, Kansas serving as Secretary in the college MANRRS chapter. Along with this, she participates in the University marching band where she plays the mellophone. Sanders has recently taken on a new role as the Conservation & Sustainability Fellow for the Kansas Grain Sorghum's Producer Association where she will assist Kansas Grain Sorghum in connecting with sustainability projects focusing on farm-oriented programming. She is scheduled to graduate in May 2023.